Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: June 2015

Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberries with handStrawberry jam allows us to capture the bright flavor of fresh strawberries so we can have a fleeting taste of summer all year long.  The jars full of jam lined up in my freezer are like frosted, sparkling jewels, promising a bit of luxury in the bare winter.  It takes some time and effort to make jam, but when I taste a spoonful of the delicious stuff on my toast, it is all worth it.  And though it has a softer set, freezer jam is much quicker to make than the cooked version.

My kids and I went over to my mom’s house a couple of days ago to make strawberry jam.  My husband was at work that day, or he would have come too.  We have been doing this for a number of years now.  It is always a festive atmosphere, probably because strawberry season makes it feel like summer is really here, and we are taking part in it, savoring and preserving its sweetness.  One of my nieces was born a few years ago while we making jam, and one of my nephews was born right around that time too, so I think I also associate jam-making with new possibilities.  The juneberries are almost always ripe at the same time as strawberry jam-making time, so the kids often slip away on breaks to eat juneberries off of the huge bush in the back yard.  This year, my daughter and son were both old enough to be extremely helpful and key players in the process.  It is fun to see them grow and take on new responsibilities.

When the kids were younger, my dad was always part of the strawberry jam operation–mainly he took photos of us and entertained the kids when they were tired of mashing strawberries.  This year was the second time he was not with us, and we missed him dearly.  There is an empty spot now where he used to be, but I believe he is with us in spirit, glad we are carrying on the tradition, and laughing with us each time my mom sends me to the store to get more jelly jars or more sugar.  We never seem to have our supplies organized.  But the jam always turns out well anyway.

strawberry jam lined upSavoring the moment and trying to capture it and preserve it for the future are two seemingly opposing forces.  But somehow they connect for me when I am working with food or with photographs.  Strawberries are really best when eaten right after they have been picked.  Eating a fresh strawberry is a wonderful way to experience the feeling of summer; it grounds us in the moment.  Preserving the lovely and unforgettable taste of strawberries in jam is honoring the moment, because we know it is brief and fleeting, and very soon there will be no more local strawberries till next year.  To me, making jam symbolizes the honoring of moments and the passing of moments.  We try to make the most of each moment and each season as it comes.

The recipe below is adapted from the one found in the Sure-jell packet.  The recipe is for making approximately four 12 ounce jars of jam, but you can definitely double, triple, or quadruple it, depending on how many strawberries you have, how much jam you want, and how much time you want to spend in the kitchen–we made 40 jars!  It may seem like the recipe calls for a lot of sugar, but the sugar helps the jam set properly.  As long as a person doesn’t eat a whole jar of jam in one sitting, it really isn’t that much sugar per spoonful of jam, and at least it is real sugar, and not high fructose corn syrup! The freezer jam is easy to make, and truly preserves the wonderful fresh flavor of the fruit. strawberries 4strawberries in bowl 1strawberries mashedstrawerry jam with funnelstrawberry jam pyramidjam and strawberries 2

Strawberry Freezer Jam

  • Servings: approximately four 12-ounce jars of jam
  • Time: about 30 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of strawberries (they become about 2 cups when mashed)
  • 4 cups of sugar, preferably pure cane sugar
  • 1 package of Sure-Jell pectin

Supplies:

  • glass jam/jelly jars used for canning, with lids and seals
  • a funnel
  • medium saucepan
  • dry measuring cup
  • liquid measuring cup
  • 2 large bowls
  • a ladle

Directions:

Wash your canning jars, lids and screw tops in very hot, soapy water (or the jars can go in the dishwasher, but tops probably should not–thoroughly was them by hand).  Make sure they are thoroughly dry.  (Because you are storing the jars in the freezer, they don’t need to be officially sterilized and sealed.) Some people use plastic freezer jars too, but I like the look of the glass jars.

Thoroughly wash the strawberries.  Gently pull the stems off of the berries, and measure four cups of them (with a dry measuring cup) into a large bowl.  Mash the strawberries with a potato masher, leaving some bits of the fruit–don’t mash it into a complete liquid.  Stir in four cups of sugar.  It is important to use the exact amount of sugar, in order for the jam to set properly.  Let the strawberry-sugar mixture sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir 1 package of Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add the pectin mixture to the strawberry-sugar mixture.  Stir for 3 minutes, or unitl the sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy (it’s okay if a few sugar crystals remain).  Immediately fill the jars (this is where a funnel comes in really handy!), leaving a half-inch space at the tops for expansion during freezing.  Wipe the lid area clean of any sticky drips with a clean, damp cloth.  Cover with lids.  If you are using the screw-top lids, make sure the lids are secured tightly.

Let the jam stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Then refrigerate for up to three weeks, or put in the freezer for up to one year.  If the jam is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator before using.  Enjoy!

Notes:

This recipe is adapted from the recipe found in the package of Sure-Jell.

Make sure you use the exact amount of sugar called for in the recipe, in order for the jam to set properly.

If you are doubling, tripling, etc., the recipe, do it by making a batch at a time.

 

 

Strawberry Smoothie with Lemon Balm and Mint

strawberries 2Many of us long for fresh strawberries all year long.  There is nothing like the sweet, bright taste of a strawberry that has been recently picked.  This smoothie is bursting with freshness with local, in-season strawberries and a hint of mint and lemon.  The banana and Greek yogurt give it a smooth, creamy texture.  It truly tastes like summer in a glass. (I guess it is not technically summer yet, but it will be very soon, and it feels like summer already!) Not to mention the nutritional benefits of drinking a smoothie with fresh strawberries and fresh herbs, and the Greek yogurt for protein–there are lots of vitamins and antioxidants in both the strawberries and the herbs.

Yesterday I was doing errands with my kids in the city near us, amidst strip malls, big box stores, and parking lots, when a pickup truck in a parking lot caught my eye.  Next to the truck, under a tent, there was a man selling quarts and quarts of fresh strawberries!  He was a farmer from the countryside near here.  I was very excited.  My kids and I were getting aggravated from all the traffic, construction, and the tedium of errands, but this was one last errand we had to do before we went home.  I bought a couple of quarts and got to work as soon as we unloaded our groceries.  First I made some strawberry shortcake, the recipe for which I posted on this blog last year, and which is always a favorite in my house.  It was delicious.

I had a few strawberries left over, and wanted to use them soon, since truly fresh strawberries do not keep well.  Smoothies are a good way to start the morning, so the next morning I made this delicious smoothie with strawberries, Greek yogurt, and bananas, sweetened with a touch of honey.  My daughter suggested we add lemon balm and mint, since we have them growing abundantly in our garden.  She went out and picked some for me, and they add a wonderful background flavor to the strawberries.

It has been a strange couple of weeks, with the transition from school to summer break for the kids, all-consuming soccer tournaments, and other issues that inevitably come up when one lives in this beautiful, difficult, imperfect world.  We have had rainy day after rainy day, bringing mosquitoes and lots of wet shoes that take forever to dry.  But we have not had to water our garden once yet this year.  I have made some good things in the kitchen that just did not make it to the blog–rhubarb and red grape crisp, pizza with broccoli rabe, and chocolate oat muffins.  As my kids and husband would say, they were not quite blog worthy.  Yet these non-blog worthy dishes got eaten anyway, and they were quite good.  I just have not been organized enough to have a well-stocked kitchen lately, and have been doing a lot of substituting and throwing things together at the last minute.  We are almost to the summer solstice, so I would like to slow down and make time to truly experience the summer– watch the fireflies at night, and get to one of the many lakes around here as much as possible.

This strawberry smoothie is definitely blog worthy, just bursting with flavor and freshness, so I will share the very simple recipe below. strawberry smoothie 2strawberry smoothie 5fruit in blenderstrawberry smoothie in handrhubarb grape crisppizza with broccoli rabechocolate oat muffinslupine

Strawberry Smoothie with Lemon Balm and Mint

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Time: 10 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of strawberries (add more if you wish), with their tops removed
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup of plain, Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, according to your taste
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoon of fresh lemon balm leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Wash and prepare the strawberries and herbs.  In a blender, place the strawberries, banana, yogurt, honey or maple syrup, mint, and lemon balm.  Puree until smooth.  Pour into one or two glasses, and enjoy!

 

Asparagus Galette

asparagus 1 Fresh, tender asparagus roasted with a mixture of cheeses and a hint of garlic, surrounded by a warm, nourishing crust.  If that sounds good to you, then you should give this recipe a try, because that is what I think of when I make this asparagus galette.  I love the fact that you can put almost any vegetable or fruit in a galette.  It is such a great way to take seasonal produce and turn it into a light meal.  With asparagus season in full swing here, an asparagus galette was inevitably going to happen in this kitchen.  The recipe I am sharing below is based on a conglomeration of the countless galette recipes out there in the world.  Many savory galette recipes are interchangeable, once you have a basic amount of cheese and vegetables.  The fun is in the creative part–adjusting the types of cheeses, seasonings, and choosing the freshest vegetables available.

As far as the crust goes, I enjoy making my own, and will include one of my favorite crust recipes.  Feel free to use your own favorite pie crust recipe.  If you are super-short on time, a store-bought crust works fine too.  I personally love the feeling of taking very separate ingredients and mixing them together to form a dough that holds together, even when stretched and shaped.  It gives me great satisfaction, like I am creating something out of nothing, and as I have mentioned before, I feel like I am connecting with ancestors and previous generations of bakers when I get out my flour canister and rolling pin.  When I am baking, I feel like my kitchen becomes a sacred space, outside of time and place.

bike under aspenThat is kind of how I feel when I go biking as well, and with the weather so gorgeous the last few days, I have gotten out on my bike a few times.  The jump from baking to biking is just one letter, and both activities take me outside of normal space and time.  Anyone who knows me knows I tend to be a bit of a worrier, but with biking, as with baking, I feel like I can leave my usual self behind.  I can bike fast enough so that my worries cannot catch up to me, and I am one with the breeze and the trees. Luckily, there is a lovely country road near our house that is not at all busy, and I can ride down that road and encounter more birds than I do cars.

Asparagus season, the beginning of biking season, the beginning of June.  The leaves are full, the butterflies are out, and I have even seen some dragonflies.  The cherries and black raspberries are looking promising this year.  It is warm and fresh and bright outside.  My grandfather liked to quote poetry, and on days like these, perfect June days, he would often quote parts of a James Russell Lowell poem:  “And what is so rare as a day in June?/Then, if ever, come perfect days….Now is the high-tide of the year/And whatever of life hath ebbed away/comes flooding back with a ripply cheer.” Enjoy the lovely June day, and have a great weekend! aasparagus galette 2DSC_0912cheese and asparagusasparagus galette, cut 1asparagus galette, cut 2

Asparagus Galette

  • Servings: 2 hungry people, or 4 less hungry people
  • Time: about 20 minutes preparation, 30 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the filling

  • 1/2 to 3/4 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Feta
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat your over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix up your pie crust dough.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the canola oil and the milk, then pour gradually into the flour mixture.  Gently stir with a fork or pastry cutter until a dough forms.  Divide the dough in two equal-sized balls.  (If you do this ahead of time, it can be stored, covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Just let it warm to about room temperature before rolling it out).  Spread some wax paper on a work surface, and lightly flour the paper.  Flatten one of the balls of dough with your hand as much as you can.  Then use a rolling pin, rolling from the center of the dough, and roll out a circle of about 12 inches in diameter.  If your edges get ragged or torn, patch them together or trim them so they are somewhat uniform.  Spread a sheet of parchment paper on a heavy baking sheet.  Gently roll the dough onto your floured rolling pin, and gently unroll it onto the parchment papered baking sheet.  Patch any dough that tears.

Wash and pat dry the asparagus.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, Feta, and mozzarella cheese.  Toss with one teaspoon of the olive oil.  In a different small bowl, combine the two tablespoons of olive oil and the minced garlic.  Transfer the cheese mixture to the crust on the baking sheet.  Spread it out evenly, leaving a 2 inch border around the edges.  Then lay the asparagus spears side-by-side on top of the cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with the olive oil-garlic mixture.  Fold and pleat the edges of the dough up and over the outer edge of the filling, all the way around.  Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown. Enjoy!

Note: I use the other ball of dough to make a second galette, the same as the first one, since people in my family have big appetites.  If you are making only one galette, store the other ball of dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or the freezer for up to 3 weeks (depending on how soon you will use it), and use it for another dish.